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RISMEDIA, October 12, 2009—RE/MAX International has scored a significant legal victory with the ruling of a federal judge who held that the sign used by Trend Setter Realty, a brokerage with as many as 700 agents in Houston and San Antonio, infringes the RE/MAX red-over-white-over-blue design under both federal and Texas law. The decision comes from U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston, reaffirming that the red-over-white-over-blue design is a protected trademark. 

“In addition to the victory in this case, the judge’s ruling will serve as a very important precedent for us to use against any future infringement of our red-over-white-over-blue bar design,” says RE/MAX Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Geoff Lewis. “We made many attempts to get Trend Setter to settle with us and to change their sign before the case proceeded, but they refused.” 

RE/MAX International filed the suit in 2007. In addition to trademark infringement, the action claimed use of the sign violated the Independent Contractor Agreement that Broker Deborah Miller had with RE/MAX Elite, which she left to help found Trend Setter Realty. The judge ruled in favor of RE/MAX on both counts. 

As part of its written argument on the trademark issue, RE/MAX International commissioned a consumer survey to determine if the public would be confused about which company owned the sign in question. Over 25% of survey participants thought the Trend Setter sign belonged to RE/MAX or a company affiliated with RE/MAX, even though their sign does not contain a balloon and modifies the white bar into the shape of a roofline. The court noted, “A real estate yard sign is intended to catch the attention of people driving past. In this context, the color and dominant design- can communicate a source to consumers viewing the signs from a distance, or while passing.” 

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